Body composition and all-cause mortality in subjects older than 65 y1–4

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A low or high body mass index (BMI) has been associated with increased mortality risk in older subjects without taking fat mass index (FMI) and fat-free mass index (FFMI) into account. This information is essential because FMI is modulated through different healthcare strategies than is FFMI.


We aimed to determine the relation between body composition and mortality in older subjects.


We included all adults ≥65 y old who were living in Switzerland and had a body-composition measurement by bioelectrical impedance analysis at the Geneva University Hospitals between 1990 and 2011. FMI and FFMI were divided into sex-specific quartiles. Quartile 1 (i.e., the reference category) corresponded to the lowest FMI or FFMI quartile. Mortality data were retrieved from the hospital database, the Geneva death register, and the Swiss National Cohort until December 2012. Comorbidities were assessed by using the Cumulative Illness Rating Scale.


Of 3181 subjects included, 766 women and 1007 men died at a mean age of 82.8 and 78.5 y, respectively. Sex-specific Cox regression models, which were used to adjust for age, BMI, smoking, ambulatory or hospitalized state, and calendar time, showed that body composition did not predict mortality in women irrespective of whether comorbidities were taken into account. In men, risk of mortality was lower with FFMI in quartiles 3 and 4 [HR: 0.78 (95% CI: 0.62, 0.98) and 0.64 (95% CI: 0.49, 0.85), respectively] but was not affected by FMI. When comorbidities were adjusted for, FFMI in quartile 4 (>19.5 kg/m2) still predicted a lower risk of mortality (HR: 0.72; 95% CI: 0.54, 0.96).


Low FFMI is a stronger predictor of mortality than is BMI in older men but not older women. FMI had no impact on mortality. These results suggest potential benefits of preventive interventions with the aim of maintaining muscle mass in older men. This trial was registered at as NCT01472679.

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